By Curt Hogg
Any of the 8,918 fans in attendance that night will always remember it. Maybe some of the 5,000 fans watching it on TV will remember it. I’m sure Chad Moeller will remember it. The night the journeyman catcher hit for the cycle was definitely one of the strangest feats in baseball.
It was April 27, 2004, or my ninth birthday, to be specific. Even with school the next day, Pops took me out to Miller Park were we joined a whole 8,916 of my compadres for a 2004 Brewers team that gave us early season hope (that didn’t last long).
I remember not too much from the game, and I had to dig the scorecard out of my folder to remember the events. I recall Doug Davis starting that night, so we all knew we were in for a loooong game and about a minute between pitches. Literally.
Looking at the scorecard, the Brewers really used the whole team. Ned Yost brought in bench players like the Aussie Trent Durrington (below) , Bill Hall, Brooks Kieschnik, Keith Ginter and Ben Grieve.
To put it simply, he had, in terms of WAR, the worst season in Brewers history, yet hit for the cycle. At -2.0, his WAR was the lowest of his career. He finished his career with a -4.0 WAR. That season, he hit .208 with 5 homers and a whole ‘lotta strikeouts. Moeller should have been a career backup catcher that lasted two years, a la Mike Rivera. Why teams kept him around, it beats me. He was slower than Eddie Perez (that’s a blast from the past), and was below-average defensively. But after one night in 2004, he managed to become my second-favorite then-Brewer, behind Scott Podsednik.
Moeller looked more like a construction worker or the quiet guy who never talks to you at the office. And he hit like the bullpen catcher, but don’t tell that to Cory Lidle.
Lidle was the starter for the Reds that day, and this is the only time I’ve ever heard his name come into play. Moeller put the Brewers on the board in the second with a homer to right center, off the ivy that used to serve as Miller Park’s batting eye. Next time up, Moeller doubled to left and was stranded. Then came the apocalypse.
Moeller took a pitch inside-out to right field where the lumbering Willy Mo Pena misplayed the ball and it ricocheted past him off the fence. Everyone that was no one was at the game that night, and we all collectively wondered “why the hell is Moeller still running?”. Chad galloped his way to third for an insane triple, something I would never see again. He only hit seven triples in his eleven-year career.
Then in the bottom of the seventh, with the Brewers down one and reliever Ryan Wagner in the game, Moeller laced a grounder up the middle that Barry Larkin couldn’t get to to complete the shocking cycle. Shocking is probably an understatement, but all the fans remaining gave Moeller a standing ovation that was probably so quiet he couldn’t hear.
In the end, Milwaukee won on a Bill Hall walk off home run after a Reds error kept the game alive. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever attended, and it reserved Moeller’s place in baseball lore.
The fact that Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Tony Gwynn, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Albert Pujols, Ichiro, and so on never accomplished the feat makes it all the more amusing. A .204 hitter in three seasons in Milwaukee made one of the most surprising feats of all-time with the cycle. I guess there was something mystical in the Milwaukee air that night, and Chad Moeller took advantage of it.
Moeller didn’t even start for three days when he went 0-4 against Pittsburgh.
ESPN and everyone will tell you he was the fifth Brewer to do so, I say different. Abner Dalrymple of the American Association Milwaukee Brewers hit for the cylce in 1891. Jody Gerut also hit for the cycle as a Brewer in 2010.